I love the dirty, loud parts of the city. Almost nothing speaks to those two adjectives better than the EL clamoring overhead. This photograph, from College of DuPage student Ethan Paulson, almost seems as though it should come with a sound clip of the train shuttering overhead. This compressed, slightly tilted upward image, is teeming with contrasts; light and dark, vertical and horizontal, and most interestingly for me, stillness and motion.
The strongest aspect of this photograph for me is the ambiguously confusing implied motion. The upper and lower background of the picture is blurry and fuzzy. The upper background is likely an office building, while the shadowy lower half hints at the covered street scene we know lurks beneath the trains. Both of these soundly stationary urban fixtures almost appear to be moving—as though all that we think we know to be true has shifted suddenly. Focus then falls on the train car, still blurry, but by far the clearest fixture in the photograph. The train appears still, suspended even, though we know if anything were to be moving in this image it would, of course, be the EL. Contrasted even further with the hazy background of the top and bottom is the stillness seen inside the train—genuine silhouettes of heads not out of focus. It’s almost as though this image reflects the frenzied state of living and commuting through Chicago on a daily basis–the almost constant motion of people and transportation. The visual noise that juts at you from every angle in an urban environment for me is represented in the blurring of backgrounds, while the stillness of the train suggests an oasis of solitude. Though this piece is indeed tightly cropped, I think it is notable that there is no horizon, no sky, no hint of anything that is not manmade.
Ethan is just starting his career as a photographer so when you look though his portfolio you see lots of different types of experiments in photography. For me, these early stages of a career are the most exciting times to become a fan of an artist’s work. As an artist starts so find subjects that interest him/her and develop them more completely you can start to see them hone their style and perfect their craftsmanship around a singular subject and grow more comfortable taking risks and finding their niche.
- Would this image have the same impact if it was in color? What about if it was a painting instead of a photography?
- This is a “quintessential Chicago” picture for me. What would be a “quintessential Chicago” picture for you?
- Take a look at some of Ethan’s other work (link below). What’s your favorite subject?
Click here for a link to Ethan’s work.
Amy Brandolino Kakkuri
**Full disclosure, Ethan is my next door neighbor and I have been a fan of his work from the onset.